Information on Admissions and Financial Aid

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Information on Admissions

Admission to the graduate programs in Spanish is a competitive process based on a comparative evaluation of all applications received. In order to be considered for admission, applicants should meet the minimum requirements described below. Initial review of graduate applications begins in the last week of January and continues on an on-going basis thereafter as completed applications are received. In order to receive full consideration for financial aid, applications should be received by January 15th for the following academic year. Prospective students to the M.A. and Ph.D. programs may also apply to begin graduate studies in the spring semester, but financial aid is not always available at that time.  The M.F.A. program in Spanish Creative Writing only considers applications for fall semesters and has an application deadline of January 15th.


Applicants to the Master of Arts program must have completed the equivalent of an undergraduate Spanish major with at least a 3.00 grade point average in courses for the major. In addition, for applicants to the M.A. in Spanish Linguistics, previous coursework in linguistics is strongly recommended.

Applicants to the Master of Fine Arts program must have an undergraduate degree in a relevant field, with at least a 3.50 grade point average.

Applicants to the PhD program must have completed the equivalent of an MA in Spanish or an MFA in Spanish Creative Writing with at least a 3.50 grade point average. In addition, for applicants to the PhD in Spanish Linguistics, previous coursework in linguistics is required.


For international students whose native language is other than English, admission requires demonstrating a certain level of proficiency in English.

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese accepts only the results of the Internet-based TOEFL (IBT) for the purpose of determining an admitted student’s eligibility for a teaching or research assistantship. An overall IBT score of 100 or higher, with a minimum score of 26 on the speaking component, is required before an offer of financial aid can be made.

The University of Iowa’s TOEFL school code is 6681. See for more information.


1. The Graduate College application form: Apply Online

2. Three (3) letters of recommendation: These should be from faculty who know your academic record. MFA applicants can also get letters from writers familiar with your creative work.

3. Official transcripts: We will need these from all universities and colleges you have attended.

4. Writing Samples:

  • Literature and Creative Writing Applicants

    • M.A. applicants - one analytical paper. This should show literary analysis including engagement with appropriate bibliography. It should be at least 10-12 pages long. If your paper is in English, please submit a second writing sample in Spanish.

    • M.F.A. applicants - one creative sample. For prose or theater, 30 to 50 pages. For poetry, 20 pages. This does not to be a complete work. It should demonstrate native or near-native proficiency in Spanish.

    • PhD applicants - two research papers. These should demonstrate excellence in literary including engagement with scholarship in the field. These can be papers written for MA/MFA classes. At least one must be in Spanish. If you intend to write a dissertation with a creative component, also submit a sample of creative work in Spanish. These should be substantial (12-15 pages for research, 20-50 pages for creative work).

  • Spanish Linguistics Applicants

    • M.A. applicants - one analytical paper. This should show linguistic or literary analysis including engagement with appropriate bibliography. It should be at least 10-12 pages long. If your paper is in English, please submit a second writing sample in Spanish.
    • PhD applicants - One or two papers showing excellence in linguistic analysis. These can be papers written for an MA class and at least one should be in Spanish. If you have any questions, please consult Dr. Christine Shea.

5. Statement of Purpose: This is a one to two-page document covering these points:

  • MA applicants.

    • Identify program. Let us know if you are applying to the literature or linguistics program.

    • Areas of interest. Let us know if you have any specific areas of interest within literature or linguistics (eg, modern Spanish narrative, phonology, etc.).

    • Preparation. Give us an idea of how your studies and other experiences have prepared you for an MA program.

    • Goals. Tell us any plans you have for after your MA.

  • MFA applicants.

    • A one- to two-page clearly articulated statement of purpose.

  • PhD applicants.

    • Dissertation area.  Tell us the area you want to research. Be as specific as you can about the topic or problem you want to investigate. Indicate as best you can your objects of study and explain what original contribution you hope to make.
    • Relevant faculty expertise. Name specific faculty members in our department, their areas of expertise, and how their work is relevant to your planned dissertation.
    • Professional goals. Indicate what you might want to do after your PhD. If you are interested in an academic career, tell us if you are thinking more about teaching or teaching and research.

Information on Financial Aid

The Department is committed to providing financial aid to M.A., M.F.A. and Ph.D. candidates in Spanish to support their graduate studies and to enhance their development as teachers and scholars. Our primary means of financial support is through teaching assistantships awarded competitively. The typical appointment is for a half-time teaching assistantship, for which the teaching responsibilities are two sections each semester of Elementary or Intermediate Spanish in the General Education Program in Spanish Language. 

For the academic year 2020-2021, the stipend for a half-time teaching assistantship is $20,064. The contract between the University and the teaching assistant union COGS also guarantees that TAs receive a full tuition scholarship for the typical full-time graduate student load (9 semester hours/semester) and that the University pay 50% of mandatory fees associates with full-time enrollment at the University. These salary rates and employment benefits are subject to change with each yearly contract.

Students who maintain good academic standing (GPA of at least 3.25), meet expectations in their progress toward degree, and maintain a good teaching record may normally expect two years of support while completing the M.A. or M.F.A. degree and four years of post- M.A. support while pursuing the PhD. Support beyond four years for the Ph.D. is rare and is awarded only in exceptional circumstances. Students who wish to be considered for financial support should apply directly to the department.

The department offers one competitive fellowship, the Ruth Davis Fellowship Award, which provides full summer support for one advanced doctoral student for one summer. Other sources of funding for graduate students at the University of Iowa include the Graduate College, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Graduate Student Senate, International Programs, and other units in the University.